Workshop Abstract

Strategic Foresight

Sean Park & Nicole Knibb


  • Awaken capacity to envision possible health futures

  • Unpack and reflect on implications of emerging trends and drivers of change

  • Ground scenarios of the future in concrete images and stories

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The Problem

Imagining possible futures that are different from current reality is exceptionally challenging. The pressures of day-to-day demands and the complexity of social, economic, and technological change make it difficult to see what health care might look like beyond a few years down the road. The ability to conceive alternative courses of action at a time of volatility, uncertainty, change and uncertainty requires a futures literacy. Appreciation for the past and present conditions needs to be joined with creative and imaginative capabilities for envisioning situations that lie outside of what is expected or preferred. Such envisioning, for it to serve us designing for the future in the present, must also attend to the embodied, concrete experiences and contexts we find ourselves.


Combining evidence-based horizon scanning and creative, future-oriented challenges enables the development of novel yet plausible scenarios. Horizon scanning examines emerging trends and drivers of change across social, technological, economic, environmental and political dimensions. Opportunities and challenges across this landscape are fruitful opportunities to ask ‘what if...’. and through a playful suspension of dis/belief, radically diverse implications of the trends and drivers on health care can be envisioned.

Instructional methods

Participants will be introduced to a story about a present health challenge that speaks to anticipating possible future scenarios. The story will reference the ways in which considering the implications of emerging trends and drivers in concrete stories, scenarios and artifacts serves as valuable way of building futures literacy. Participants will break out into small groups, select 2-3 emerging trends and drivers cards, and discuss their implications for impact on health care. They then create fictional news headlines from the year 2040 on large templates posted to the wall. The activity will invite the creation of various story headlines and images that represent a range of possible futures. During a debriefing of the activity, we will ask participants to share the most provocative headlines, as well as reflect on the abilities they feel were exercised in the session.


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